Beach Photography Tips for Models and Photographers

Living near the beaches of South Florida since 2004, I’ve developed firsthand experience for successful photoshoots that I’d like to share..

Photographer: Armond Scipione; Model: Lismary

Tips for photographers:

Choose the best time of day to shoot

Most photographers, including myself, like to shoot during the “magic hour” at the beach. This includes 30 minutes before sunrise and usually the first hour or two after. This also includes the hour or two before sunset and 30 minutes after sunset. The 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset can often reveal the most compelling and beautiful scenery. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve packed up my camera gear thinking that a sunset was over, only to see the most amazing display in the sky after the sun goes down and I’m already driving home. If you live on the east coast, shooting at sunrise can be an amazing experience. Not only do you get the dramatic sunrise shots, but also the beach is usually very vacant. This gives you more freedom to shoot where you want and also makes the model more comfortable because there are less people watching.

Photographer: Armond Scipione

Avoid lens fog

Problem: often, your lens will fog up immediately when you take it out of the case, especially when it’s very humid outside. Even with a soft cloth and a hurricane blower, this fog and condensation can take up to 15 minutes to go away. Those 15 minutes can cause you to miss the sunrise and that perfect shot. Solution: if possible, leave you lens in the trunk of your car overnight. Your lens will be close to the same temperature and humidity as outside. Another option, and the one I use myself, is to put your lens on your camera before you leave your house. Let your camera ride next to you in your car while you drive to the beach. Slightly crack your car window and allow the outside air to come inside your car. By the time you get to the beach, you lens should be fully acclimated and ready to go.

If you have to change your lens during a shoot, try to find an indoor spot off of the beach. This will help to minimize the sand that can get onto your sensor.

Photographer: Armond Scipione

Scout out the best locations

I always like to get to the shoot location about 30 minutes before the model. This allows me to scout out the scene and find all the places where I want to shoot. The beach can change dramatically from week to week. Water levels rise and fall. Waves can be calm or rough. Sometimes you will find nice green moss on the rocks. Other times drift wood may float in. Sand levels can change and shift. Planning your shots ahead of time will make the shoot run more efficiently.

Photographer: Armond Scipione; Model: Tamlyn Cosster

Check the weather

Always go online or use an app on your phone to check the weather the days before and the night before your shoot. I’ve learned that checking the wind speed is the variable I need to consider most. Wind speeds over 15-20 mph cause major challenges for you and the model. If you insist on shooting on a windy day, bring sand bags to keep your light stands from blowing over. Yes, I’ve learned the hard way and lost 2 lights into the ocean.

Don’t worry so much about a chance of rain (30% chance or less is usually safe). Often the best sunrise and sunset scenes come before or after a rain storm.  Just in case, I always keep several large plastic bags in my camera case. If it does start raining, I can quickly cover my lights and camera.

Photographer: Armond Scipione; Model: Lismary

Clean up properly

I’ve always found it helpful to pack two towels for yourself. One to dry off with in case you get wet and the other to put on your car seat while you drive home. I also utilize a wheel cleaner brush to clean off my light stands before placing them back in my car.

Always aim to improve

I always try to improve each time I go out on a shoot. Shooting at sunrise can present several technical challenges that take time and experience to master. Balancing ambient and strobe light, incorporating the sun as additional light, getting the auto focus to act correctly with the sun in the frame, and learning how to time the waves are just a handful of issues that will likely need to be addressed and mastered. Take time after your shoot to analyze all of your shots and determine what you can do better next time.

Photographer: Armond Scipione; Model: Karolina Wozniak

Tips for models:

Get a good night’s sleep

This is really important for you to look your best. If you know you will have trouble falling asleep the night before, you can try taking 400 mg of magnesium 30 minutes before bedtime. Magnesium stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system (nighttime nervous system) and helps you fall asleep without making you groggy in the morning.

Photographer: Armond Scipione; Model: Sophia Kenol

Plan your outfits

Communicate your outfit choices with the photographer in the days prior to the shoot. This will save time on the day of your shoot. You and the photographer can decide which outfits will work best and the photographer can also start planning the shots in his mind.

Bring 1-2 more outfits than you plan on wearing. This will give you extra options in case something doesn’t work out or the color you picked doesn’t go well with the scene.

Also, bring a large towel, blanket or bathrobe to change outfits in.

Photographer: Armond Scipione; Model: Alexis Hicks

Communicate with the photographer

When you’re about to leave for the location, text or call the photographer to let them know you are on your way. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the most successful models always confirm the time and location, and let me know when they’re leaving.

Show up about 15 minutes early. If it’s your first time driving to a location, give yourself an extra 30 minutes more than you anticipate in case you have difficulty finding the spot.

Allow enough time for makeup

Give yourself enough time to do your hair and makeup. If you are hiring a MUA, make sure the MUA knows what time you need to start driving to your shoot location. If you need to leave the MUA at 6 am, then it’s a good idea to tell the MUA that you need to be done by 5:40 am.

Plan your poses

If you are fairly new to modeling, it’s a good idea to find pictures you like and start practicing poses in the mirror. This will help you feel more comfortable during the shoot and yield better results.

Photographer: Armond Scipione

Analyze how you can improve

After your shoot, it’s always a good idea to review the images and figure out what you could do better for next time. I provide my models an online proof gallery (with watermarks) so the models can make their photo selections and see what they can improve upon. Always discuss with your photographer before the shoot to know if they will allow you to see all the images. Every photographer has different thoughts on this.